Friday, July 29, 2016

Colorado State Parks

Steamboat Lake State Park
Colorado's State Parks offer much to both residents and visitors to the state. They are often near Federal areas and link their trails. All the parks we've been to so far have large lakes created for recreation. Camping, boating and fishing are popular, but there isn't much shade around the campgrounds. Unlike Kentucky, there are no lodges, only camping facilities. Dick and I managed to find the only shady picnic table in the park for our lunch yesterday.
My favorite part of the parks, however, is the comparison of areas left in a natural state versus the surrounding ranching areas. The parks are full of wild flowers, every where you look! Pine bark beetles have decimated the lodge pole pines, but the park service leaves most of them standing to be taken care of naturally. The beetles invade the trees, but a fungus they carry actually kills the tree. Cattle grazing leave little plant life. All the ranchers are cutting and baling hay this week to prepare for the long winter's snow.
I keep trying to get a photo of a large meadow full of flowers, and can never do justice to the reality. It will take me weeks to identify all the flowers blooming in late July. Some of them are flowers I would expect to see at home during the spring.
Mule Tail Deer
Colorado Chipmunk
 The wildlife we've found so far aren't afraid of people at all. This mule deer walked up the path we were on, watching us intently, and when she got close enough bounded past and on her own business. The little chipmunks are fast and hard to catch in photos, running in and out of the shade.
Mountain Bluebird
The battery demon struck again, and when my camera battery started flashing red, my replacement didn't have a full charge, so it too started flashing red before long. This has happened before, and Dick always shakes his head and sighs when it happens. I will now start carrying two charged batteries in my fanny pack instead of just one!
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Despite turning the camera off each time I took a photo, I ended up with a nice collection of birds at the state park.
Belted Kingfisher
White Pelican
Red-shafted Flicker
We still haven't seen or heard any Western Meadowlarks or seen American Dippers, despite the perfect habitat. But we will keep looking.
Northern Harrier
At neighboring Pearl Lake State Park, we watched a group of children and adults learning how to paddle board, standing up on the board, or kayaking across the clear mountain lake. I glanced overhead and found a raptor kiting in the sky, that is, floating without moving as it was held up simply by the wind. This is something different, I said. A light gray body and black along the trailing edges of his wings. A Northern Harrier! We are doing well at finding many raptor species this trip.

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